After running a bit late, Blake Smith makes quick statement during first day of Stampede rodeo |

After running a bit late, Blake Smith makes quick statement during first day of Stampede rodeo

Bobby Fernandez

Blake Smith didn’t mind being in just a little bit of a rush Monday afternoon.

When it was go time, he knew exactly how to slow down everything — time, his emotions, that nervous pounding in his chest.

Yet the eight-second minimum in which he had to stay atop his horse, First Class, seemed to fly right by.

Smith, a native of Zap, N.D., zipped right past the competition, recording a score of 83 to top the bareback leaderboard through the first day of the Greeley Stampede pro rodeo June 27 at Island Grove Park’s Stampede Arena.

“I’m really happy,” Smith said. “I need this … just to get the ball rolling.”

As Smith completed his ride, a public address announcer made the astute observation that Smith doesn’t ride like a rookie.

He doesn’t think like one, either.

Smith, a 24-year-old youngster who just graduated from Dickinson State University, already thinks much like a veteran.

Despite being a rookie at the pro level, he has experienced plenty in his young rodeo career, including battling back from a fractured back, dislocated neck and torn rotator cuff suffered almost two years ago while competing for Dickinson State.

So, with all that perspective in his back pocket, Smith wasn’t about to be deterred or intimidated when he found himself running just a little bit late to Monday’s rodeo.

In fact, having to quickly toss on his gear and head right over to the chutes in front of a big crowd may have actually helped his mental approach. Rather than having a surplus of time to think about the challenge that lay before him, the upstart young’in just rode — and he rode better than anyone else among the 10-competitor field, positioning himself for a possible return trip for the Stampede finals on July 3.

“For me, I can show up 10 minutes before and get ready and ride,” Smith said. “Yeah, it worked out good today. My buddies helped me.

“So I had enough time to get ready.”

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association can be an unforgiving environment for a rookie, no matter how bright-eyed and bushy tailed they may be.

With that said, Smith admits he’s had his ups and downs in his first year as a pro. So a trip to the pay window could be just what Smith needs to boost his confidence and momentum as he strives to start his PRCA career in style.

“It’s been kind of a futile winter,” he said. “Since college got over, I’ve just been rodeoing, and I’ve been winning some money every weekend.

“But I would kind of like to win some good money here.”

The next stop during a busy few months for Smith is Prescott, Ariz., today. He’ll then take a day off before heading to Oakley City, Utah, on Thursday.

Growing up in Zap, Smith has never had to look far when he needs a little advice from a bareback rider who has been there and done that.

Smith grew up just five miles from Golden Valley, N.D., home of 1990 bareback World Champion Wayne Herman.

“It’s like having Brett Favre, if you’re trying to be a quarterback,” Smith said. “I’ve got (Herman) right in my backyard.”

And while not hesitant to lean on the advice of much more experienced riders, Smith already has a knack for focusing, dialing in and achieving a level of poise and concentration uncanny of someone with such sparse experience.

“I’m very big on that this year, I’ve read some books on that,” he said. “I call it getting in the zone. I just try to take everything in.

“It’s no different than when you go to tie your shoes. You don’t even think when you tie your shoes. You just bend over and do it.”


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